Saturday 23 September 2017

D'Arcy: Church must do all it can to help Cleary's 'child'

Felicia Irwin, an American-born woman who was adopted almost 30 years ago believes that she is the biological daughter of singing priest Father Michael Cleary. Inset: Ross and Phyllis Hamilton with Fr Cleary
Felicia Irwin, an American-born woman who was adopted almost 30 years ago believes that she is the biological daughter of singing priest Father Michael Cleary. Inset: Ross and Phyllis Hamilton with Fr Cleary
Felecia Irwin
Fr Brian D'Arcy
Mark O'Regan

Mark O'Regan

OUTSPOKEN priest Fr Brian D'Arcy has said the Catholic Church must provide "all necessary support" for an American woman if DNA tests prove Fr Michael Cleary is her biological father.

Fr D'Arcy, who was a close friend of 'Fr Mick', said he was traumatised when he first discovered Cleary had fathered two children, with his housekeeper and secret lover, Phyllis Hamilton. "Something died inside me," he said.

However, with the passing of time he admitted he wasn't particularly surprised when he read about Felicia Irwin's story in Saturday's Irish Independent.

Fr Cleary began a relationship with Phyllis Hamiliton when she was 17 years old and he was 34.

Their first child was given up for adoption, while their second son, Ross Hamilton, lived in the house with Phyllis and the priest.

The Floridian, Felicia Irwin, revealed at the weekend in an exclusive feature on independent.ie that she is attempting to find out if she is his third biological child. Ms Irwin was given up for adoption after Ms Hamilton gave birth to her in Fort Lauderdale almost 30 years ago in January 1985.

Phyllis, who died in 2001, claimed in her 1995 biography that she fell pregnant with her daughter after being raped by a trainee priest.

But she later said in a media interview that she couldn't be sure who Felicia's father was.

Ms Irwin, a mother-of-three, says she believes that Fr Michael Cleary is her father.

She plans to travel from Florida to Ireland to prove she is not a "child of rape".

Fr D'Arcy agrees a DNA test is urgently required as it is the "obvious way" to clear up the matter.

"That's the way things are done these days. It's a sad story and everybody is trying to do their best," he told the Irish Independent. "They all have lives to live and deserve peace."

He said that he will always be available to support all of Fr Cleary's children - but revealed he hasn't spoken to Ross Hamilton "in years".

"Ross hasn't been in contact for a long time; I presume he makes a choice not to. That's fine. The guy has enough hassle without getting involved with other priests. But he knows I'm here." He added: "The whole world is talking about something that is pretty normal in any other family. The world has changed and we accept each creature as a human being. We should leave it at that and move on.

"All judgments have been made on the people involved, and I'm sure Fr Cleary and Phyllis, met a merciful God when they passed on."

However, up to the time of her death, Phyllis admitted she could not be absolutely sure whether Felicia's father was Michael Cleary, or the deacon who allegedly raped her.

The deacon left the priesthood and died 15 years ago.

"I would be very upset if it was a rape by a guy who at one stage was going on to become a priest," said Fr D'Arcy.

"That was a horrific thing to do if that was the case. But sadly it seems Phyllis was raped. That's inexcusable, desperate, and a horrible thing to happen."

Fr D'Arcy has moved to assuage fears that Felicia will be "shunned" by the church.

"I don't know what she'd want done, and at this stage it wouldn't be financial," he said.

"But I'm sure the Archdiocese of Dublin will certainly be helpful. She might not even want help.

" I wouldn't like to think the Church authorities would shun anybody who is genuinely in need," he said.

Felicia said that Fr Brian D'Arcy's support gives her massive hope that she can arrange a DNA test.

"I'm happy to know that I have support behind me, especially from someone who was so close to Fr Michael Cleary."

Irish Independent

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